"Oh! that's enough in all conscience! Pray for whom you choose, and the devil take them and you! We have a scholar here; you did not know that, prince?" he continued, with a sneer. "He reads all sorts of books and memoirs now."
"At any rate, your uncle has a kind heart," remarked the prince, who really had to force himself to speak to the nephew, so much did he dislike him.
"Oh, now you are going to praise him! He will be set up! He puts his hand on his heart, and he is delighted! I never said he was a man without heart, but he is a rascal — that's the pity of it. And then, he is addicted to drink, and his mind is unhinged, like that of most people who have taken more than is good for them for years. He loves his children — oh, I know that well enough! He respected my aunt, his late wife . . . and he even has a sort of affection for me. He has remembered me in his will."
"I shall leave you nothing!" exclaimed his uncle angrily.
"Listen to me, Lebedeff," said the prince in a decided voice, turning his back on the young man. "I know by experience that when you choose, you can be business-like.. I. I have very little time to spare, and if you . . . By the way — excuse me — what is your Christian name? I have forgotten it."
Everyone in the room began to laugh.
"He is telling lies!" cried the nephew. "Even now he cannot speak the truth. He is not called Timofey Lukianovitch, prince, but Lukian Timofeyovitch. Now do tell us why you must needs lie about it? Lukian or Timofey, it is all the same to you, and what difference can it make to the prince? He tells lies without the least necessity, simply by force of habit, I assure you."
"Is that true?" said the prince impatiently.
"My name really is Lukian Timofeyovitch," acknowledged Lebedeff, lowering his eyes, and putting his hand on his heart.
"Well, for God's sake, what made you say the other?"
"To humble myself," murmured Lebedeff.
"What on earth do you mean? Oh I if only I knew where Colia was at this moment!" cried the prince, standing up, as if to go.
"I can tell you all about Colia," said the young man
"Oh! no, no!" said Lebedeff, hurriedly.
"Colia spent the night here, and this morning went after his father, whom you let out of prison by paying his debts — Heaven only knows why! Yesterday the general promised to come and lodge here, but he did not appear. Most probably he slept at the hotel close by. No doubt Colia is there, unless he has gone to Pavlofsk to see the Epanchins. He had a little money, and was intending to go there yesterday. He must be either at the hotel or at Pavlofsk."
"At Pavlofsk! He is at Pavlofsk, undoubtedly!" interrupted Lebedeff . . . . "But come — let us go into the garden — we will have coffee there . . . ." And Lebedeff seized the prince's arm, and led him from the room. They went across the yard, and found themselves in a delightful little garden with the trees already in their summer dress of green, thanks to the unusually fine weather. Lebedeff invited his guest to sit down on a green seat before a table of the same colour fixed in the earth, and took a seat facing him. In a few minutes the coffee appeared, and the prince did not refuse it. The host kept his eyes fixed on Muishkin, with an expression of passionate servility.
"I knew nothing about your home before," said the prince absently, as if he were thinking of something else.
"Poor orphans," began Lebedeff, his face assuming a mournful air, but he stopped short, for the other looked at him inattentively, as if he had already forgotten his own remark. They waited a few minutes in silence, while Lebedeff sat with his eyes fixed mournfully on the young man's face.
"Well!" said the latter, at last rousing himself. "Ah! yes! You know why I came, Lebedeff. Your letter brought me. Speak! Tell me all about it."
The clerk, rather confused, tried to say something, hesitated, began to speak, and again stopped. The prince looked at him gravely.
"I think I understand, Lukian Timofeyovitch: you were not sure that I should come. You did not think I should start at the first word from you, and you merely wrote to relieve your conscience. However, you see now that I have come, and I have had enough of trickery. Give up serving, or trying to serve, two masters. Rogojin has been here these three weeks. Have you managed to sell her to him as you did before? Tell me the truth."
"He discovered everything, the monster . . . himself . . . . . . "
"Don't abuse him; though I dare say you have something to complain of . . . ."
"He beat me, he thrashed me unmercifully!" replied Lebedeff vehemently. "He set a dog on me in Moscow, a bloodhound, a terrible beast that chased me all down the street."
"You seem to take me for a child, Lebedeff. Tell me, is it a fact that she left him while they were in Moscow?"
"Yes, it is a fact, and this time, let me tell you, on the very eve of their marriage! It was a question of minutes when she slipped off to Petersburg. She came to me directly she arrived — 'Save me, Lukian! find me some refuge, and say nothing to the prince!' She is afraid of you, even more than she is of him, and in that she shows her wisdom!" And Lebedeff slily put his finger to his brow as he said the last words.
"And now it is you who have brought them together again?"
"Excellency, how could I, how could I prevent it?"
"That will do. I can find out for myself. Only tell me, where is she now? At his house? With him?"
"Oh no! Certainly not! 'I am free,' she says; you know how she insists on that point. 'I am entirely free.' She repeats it over and over again. She is living in Petersburgskaia, with my sister-in-law, as I told you in my letter."
"She is there at this moment?"
"Yes, unless she has gone to Pavlofsk: the fine weather may have tempted her, perhaps, into the country, with Daria Alexeyevna. 'I am quite free,' she says. Only yesterday she boasted of her freedom to Nicolai Ardalionovitch — a bad sign," added Lebedeff, smiling.
"Colia goes to see her often, does he not?"
"He is a strange boy, thoughtless, and inclined to be indiscreet."
"Is it long since you saw her?"
"I go to see her every day, every day."
"Then you were there yesterday?"
"N-no: I have not been these three last days."
"It is a pity you have taken too much wine, Lebedeff I want to ask you something . . . but . . . "
"All right! all right! I am not drunk," replied the clerk, preparing to listen.
"Tell me, how was she when you left her?"
"She is a woman who is seeking . . . "
"She seems always to be searching about, as if she had lost something. The mere idea of her coming marriage disgusts her; she looks on it as an insult. She cares as much for HIM as for a piece of orange-peel — not more. Yet I am much mistaken if she does not look on him with fear and trembling. She forbids his name to be mentioned before her, and they only meet when unavoidable. He understands, well enough! But it must be gone through She is restless, mocking, deceitful, violent . . . ."
"Deceitful and violent?"
"Yes, violent. I can give you a proof of it. A few days ago she tried to pull my hair because I said something that annoyed her. I tried to soothe her by reading the Apocalypse aloud."
"What?" exclaimed the prince, thinking he had not heard aright.
"By reading the Apocalypse. The lady has a restless imagination, he-he! She has a liking for conversation on serious subjects, of any kind; in fact they please her so much, that it flatters her to discuss them. Now for fifteen years at least I have studied the Apocalypse, and she agrees with me in thinking that the present is the epoch represented by the third horse, the black one whose rider holds a measure in his hand. It seems to me that everything is ruled by measure in our century; all men are clamouring for their rights; 'a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny.' But, added to this, men desire freedom of mind and body, a pure heart, a healthy life, and all God's good gifts. Now by pleading their rights alone, they will never attain all this, so the white horse, with his rider Death, comes next, and is followed by Hell. We talked about this matter when we met, and it impressed her very much."
"Do you believe all this?" asked Muishkin, looking curiously at his companion.